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Affordable Home Gym Equipment - How to Build a Home Gym

Updated on May 25, 2014

Why a Home Gym?

Good weight training habits are important. The most common problem that a lot of people have when training, especially those in their late 20s and 30s is that they just can't find the time to drive to the gym, lift, and then come back home. With such busy schedules, many people are trending toward home gyms. They are more accessible and generally easier to use; having a home gym eliminates a lot of problems that people have when going to the gym - getting into proper shorts, having to shower at the gym, and driving. With increase motivation to work out, many see increased gains and greater drive to get strong.

Not only are home gyms more accessible, but they are also cheaper.  You can build an average home gym for under $1000, which is the price of two years at a moderately priced gym. 

Exercise Mats

Mats are the most basic home exercise equipment. They are useful for doing exercises on the ground, including push ups and sit ups. Depending on where you put your home gym, you'll also want to put mats under the exercise equipment. You can use thinner mats for that, like the Supermats 50x60 home gym mat, shown on the side. This is absolutely necessary if you have wood floors, as they'll get scratched otherwise. If you're working out in your basement, which is most likely concrete, then you'll be okay putting the equipment on the floor without mats. The same goes for carpet.

With that in mind, you'll want to utilize mats when doing lifts like cleans and deadlifts. These will dent your floor if you don't have a good amount of cushion, so I recommend a mat that is at least a half inch thick, like the other supermats one.

Note that the Everlast and Valeo mats are just for ground exercises.  You shouldn't use them under your exercise equipment.

Weight Sets

These are weight sets, which you'll need to do freeweight exercises.  Depending on how large and strong you are, you may need different weight.  All weight sets come with barbells, so you won't need to purchase another one of those.  Curl bars, however, are another story.  For starting lifters, I wouldn't recommend anything more than the 210 lb. set, and even the 150 lb. set should be plenty.  You can expect to pay about a dollar for every pound of weight, on average.  As such, these will make up the bulk of your exercise and expense. 

Please note that the 150lb set uses threaded bars - the threaded collars won't work on olympic bars.


Benches are the second most important part of any home gym, only behind the actual weight.  Depending on what you're looking to do, there are several types of benches that you can invest in.  The one I recommend is the Marcy Classic, which comes with leg extension and preacher curl attachments.  It is able to be adjusted to incline or decline, meaning that you'll be able to do all three types of presses.  The only downside of the bench is its price and the fact that it won't work well in a power rack, which means that bench pressing won't be quite as safe.

The incline bench is useful in that it'll fit into a power rack, granting you a bit more safety when benching (as the barbell can not reach your body.)  If you plan on working out alone, I recommend the incline bench over the Marcy Classic, unless the preacher and leg extension additions are very important. 

The flat bench is useful for several exercises, although there's nothing it can do that an adjustable bench can't.  The only reason I'd recommend it is that it's slightly cheaper.  You can use a flat bench for flies, dumbbell presses, bench presses (with a power rack), and bent over rows.

Curl Bars and Dumbbells

There are several different types of dumbbells that you can use.  All of them have their uses and draw backs, be it size, cost, or quality.

The Apex Olympic Hollow Bar Kit is cheap and comes with both an EZ Curl bar and two dumbbells.  The only downside to this piece of equipment is that the dumbbells are only of moderate quality, and that the collars will have a difficult time keeping the plates on - especially if you're using more than two.

The Weider Olympic Size Curl Bar is a good quality EZ Curl Bar.  This is for if you opt out of the Apex one and choose to get higher quality dumbbells.  The bar is also a bit more expensive than the Apex equivalent, but it's of higher quality.

Adjustable dumbbell sets like the Reebok are useful, but very expensive.  This one can only go up to 25 pounds, which isn't really enough to do exercises like bent over rows and dumbbell press.

The dumbbell rack is the absolute best there is, but the price also reflects this.  You won't have to worry about the weights falling off, and it goes up to 50 pounds, which should be plenty for anyone that's starting out.  If you're an experienced lifter, then you might be able to use a little bit more weight, but even then this should be sufficient.  Note that you'll probably want to put a mat under the rack if you set up your home gym where there are wood floors.

Finally, you have the threaded dumbbell handles.  These, combined with the Weider Olympic Curl Bar, will give you the best value for equipment.  If you don't mind changing the plates on your dumbbells, then I highly recommend this combination.

Squat and Power Racks

Power racks double as squat racks, although the reverse is not true.  The advantage of power racks is that you will be able to do bench work inside of them, whereas you can't really do that with a squat rack.  They will also act as a buffer between your chest and the bar, just incase you can't get it up or drop it. 

The Champion Step Squat Rack is useful for those with a good amount of room and who also bought the Marcy Bench (or something similar).  This rack takes up a fair amount of room, but will catch the weight if you can't get up. 

The power rack, like I said, is the best of both worlds.  It's a bit expensive, but I highly recommend it if you can afford it.  It takes up about the same room as the Champion Step Squat Rack, but is more useful.

Finally, you can invest in a smaller, cheaper squat rack like the PowerLine one.  This has no buffer between you and the ground, but it is small and cheap.  I only recommend this one if you are on a budget, don't have much room, always have a spotter, or are working with light weight. 

Misc Equipment

There are a fair amount of additional items or equipment that you can outfit your gym with. The one thing I highly recommend, especially if you are doing heavy lifts, is the lifting belt. This will protect your lower back when you're doing compound lifts, like barbell rows, deadlifts, or squats.


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      Lecie 8 years ago

      great hub